By Dean Franks, senior vice president for congressional relations, ARTBA
With less than 40 days until the Sept. 30 expiration of the FAST Act law, election season peaking, and Congress bogged down with the latest COVID-19 relief measure, a highway and transit funding program extension is increasingly likely.
We’ve been down this road before. Congress and the president have extended the surface transportation program more than a dozen times since 2009.
For nearly a month, ARTBA has been discussing with key congressional leaders and their staffs the nature and scope of such an action.
ARTBA has prioritized the importance of increasing core federal highway and transit investment beyond current funding levels, which both the full House of Representatives and the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee have approved on a bipartisan basis. Noting past negative market and economic impacts of extension-related flat funding levels, coupled with new uncertainty about the timeline for the nation’s post-coronavirus economic recovery, ARTBA raised serious concerns about a status quo approach. ARTBA also reminded the staff that increased funding in an extension will require additional Highway Trust Fund (HTF) resources.
The ARTBA co-chaired Transportation Construction Coalition (TCC) met Aug. 17 and reached consensus on the necessary extension ingredients, while also continuing to advocate for additional resources for state departments of transportation and public transportation agencies. The following day, ARTBA asked the U.S. Chamber of Commerce-led Americans for Transportation Mobility (ATM) coalition to join in this common purpose. ATM agreed.
The TCC and ATM advocated jointly on these issues in an ARTBA-arranged Aug. 21 meeting with top House and Senate transportation committee staff.
An extension notwithstanding, ARTBA remains focused in its pursuit of a permanent HTF revenue solution and enactment of other legislation that would significantly increase surface transportation investment.